ASX ends week in positive territory

The ‘remarkably resilient’ ASX finished the week in the green, with non-essential retailing stocks lifting as figures showed a national online sales record.

The Australian sharemarket snapped a two-day losing streak to end the week in positive territory, with miners and non-essential retailing among the gains.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed 0.5 per cent higher at 7522.9, while the All Ordinaries Index gained 0.55 per cent to 7826.7.

“Considering we’re coming off the back of 11 months of gains … the market has been remarkably resilient under the circumstances,” CommSec market analyst Steven Daghlian said.

Most sectors fared well, he said, but there was a dearth of company news given official earnings season concluded this week.

In economic news, however, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed retail trade fell 2.7 per cent in July compared to the previous month.

But that was driven by sharp falls in locked-down NSW, down 8.9 per cent month-on-month, and South Australia, down 3.3 per cent.

All other states and territories had higher retail trade, led by Tasmania, up 2.7 per cent.

Food retailing was 2.3 per cent higher while clothing, footwear and personal accessory sales slumped 15.4 per cent.

Online sales rocketed to $3.7bn (the highest level in the history of the data), up 19.3 per cent compared to June.

Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra said the unsurprising spike in e-commerce demand was adding to stress in supply chains and warned shoppers to be prepared before the festive season.

“Give plenty of time for your items to be delivered and it’s also an important reminder not to leave your Christmas shopping till the last minute,” Mr Zahra said.

Coles dipped 0.67 per cent to $17.74, while bigger rival Woolworths added 0.62 per cent to $40.72.

Among consumer discretionary stocks, Dusk jumped 7.17 per cent to $3.29, Temple and Webster advanced 3.28 per cent to $13.86, Super Retail gained 1.8 per cent to $12.42, Nick Scali appreciated 1.22 per cent to $12.45 and Kogan lifted 1.29 per cent to $11.01 but Harvey Norman backtracked 1.5 per cent to $5.22.

Mosaic Brands, which owns fashion chains such as Noni B and Rockmans, said it was not yet ready to exit its trading halt and announce a proposed capital raising.

BHP rose 0.98 per cent to $42.35, Rio Tinto jumped 2.5 per cent to $111.37 and Fortescue added 0.68 per cent to $20.85.

“Impressive improvements there, considering that the iron ore price fell by 2.7 per cent yesterday to $US139/t. That means iron ore prices have fallen 11 per cent this week,” Mr Daghlian said.

OMG chief executive Ivan Tchourilov said Alumina had been a star performer since reporting its half-year net profit last week, rallying 18 per cent and reaching highs not seen since being sold off in February 2020.

“There’s clearly still an appetite for certain materials and stocks within the mining sector, even as key commodities such as iron ore have clearly fallen out of vogue,” he said.

Share in Alumina gained 6.68 per cent to $1.99.

Orocobre was a strong performer, leaping 7 per cent to $9.79, as was fellow lithium miner Pilbara Minerals, up 2.26 per cent at $2.26, while Lynas Rare Earths gained 3.37 per cent to $7.06.

Energy stocks firmed after the oil price rose about 2 per cent to just shy of $US70 per barrel, Mr Daghlian said.

Woodside rose 0.76 per cent to $19.90, Santos added 0.64 per cent to $6.25 and Origin gained 0.9 per cent to $4.46.

ANZ eased four cents to $27.87, Commonwealth Bank improved 0.46 per cent to $101.84, National Australia Bank found 0.74 per cent to $28.70 and Westpac inched one cent lower to $26.02.

Buy-now-pay-later provider Afterpay dropped 2.77 per cent to $130.71.

Mr Tchourilov said biotech company Mesoblast had suffered “a week to forget” after the FDA raised questions around its flagship drug candidate, used to treat acute respiratory distress syndrome in adults.

“This led to a 20 per cent decline over two days, which left investors reeling and in all-too-familiar territory,” he said.

“The stock has managed to stage somewhat of a recovery, rallying 5.8 per cent today (to $1.71), but it’s down 70 per cent in two years with problem after problem.

“Investors have been burnt by them one too many times and have lost confidence, at least in the short term.”

AMA Group responded to media suggestions it was scrambling for funding options, insisting its liquidity remained strong as it undertook a capital structure review, but conceding the Covid-related drop in car crash repairs was having an impact.

“Not surprising that smash repairs during the pandemic perhaps haven’t been getting a huge amount of business because there are fewer cars on the road,” Mr Daghlian said.

Shares in AMA slumped 5.62 per cent to 42 cents.

The Aussie dollar was buying 74.22 US cents, 53.66 British pence and 62.48 Euro cents in afternoon trade.

Originally published as ‘Remarkably resilient’ Australian sharemarket ends week in the green, miners and consumer discretionary among gains

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